This week marks another year of being without my dad. Can it be 24 years? One of his last gifts of Christmas ’88, he received a computer “mouse”, a gadget he loved in just the short time he had to use it. Can it be that long? How can it be, that this rocket scientist never knew about flat screen monitors, the I-pad, not to mention smart phones? I think of mom, a widow of 24 years. This time of year between his New Year’s birthday and my parents’ anniversary on Feb. 2, I think of them together and also, just him.
I knew him in so many ways.
Teacher. “Let’s go to the “farmacia” he would say reinforcing Spanish in our house by simply going to the drugstore.
Engineer. “When in doubt, always read the directions,” he used to say.
Rocket scientist: “Make no mistake. Space is a dangerous business and our astronauts are brave men when you consider they go up in the atmosphere in a rocket that was designed and built by the lowest bidders in the industry.”
Realist: “But what will everyone think?” I would moan and groan. “Don’t flatter yourself” sobered me pretty quickly.
My Renaissance man: He could break into one of several languages although he had lived in the States for years.
Connoisseur: He always enjoyed one good glass of wine or small glass of sherry after work.
Fun and funny family man: On birthdays, “Lang zulzeleden” would be the first of some rolicking Dutch songs he would lead us in singing followed by a candle race.
Man of faith: He had a deep respect for the folks he and mom invited to our home. Mom would often say he was the most “Christian” man she knew. I have pondered that many times knowing he was a charter member and founder of a Unitarian church in our southern town, yet a catholic priest recognized who he was, led his memorial service and buried him.
Family man: My mother used to say “Your dad is happiest traveling with his family and visiting family.” We were fortunate that family lived everywhere. He loved his parents, brothers and sister.
I was so fortunate that he had nurtured me as a child, sent me off to college and gave me away at our wedding, and came to know our two daughters as toddlers. Daughter #2 still has a rocking chair he made for her dolly.
I had viewed my mother and father as a team for a very long time, not necessarily individuals, they were “Mom and Dad” — the parents. After he was gone I was able to sort out who my mother was and who my dad was–what each brought to our family and their relationship.
Yes, my mother always checked the homework (except math), took me shopping, was always my advocate, tucked me into bed at night and during the teen years stayed up late at night with me talking, talking.
Dad was the go to man to help me with algebra, geometry and trig. He lit up a room with his smile and sparkle in his eye. He never met a stranger when we went out on errands. My mother invited couples over to play bridge and they invited my mother and father in return. The morning after a bridge night, we kids were very curious to see what dad and mom brought home. You see — dad was wonderful at bridge and ALWAYS came home with the grand prize. Now, mom wasn’t that good and ALWAYS came home with the “booby” prize. So my disinterest in the game came from her? Oh dear…I wander.
The things listed above were obvious. They are indelible memories. But I learned subtler things about my dad and my mother after he died. For now, I’ll keep those things to myself, but I still reflect on the fact that even after a loved one dies, we still discover who they were. It has been an amazing thing for me to learn who my dad was after he died.